Jun. 25—ALEXANDRIA — Rylee Gattis transferred to Alexandria to play for longtime Valley Cubs head coach Brian Hess, and the pitcher-coach match has helped to keep Alexandria a state-level contender.
For helping Alexandria reach the state tournament and finish among the final four teams in Class 5A this season, Gattis is The Anniston Star's Calhoun County 4A-6A softball player of the year.
She went 29-8 in the circle with three no-hitters, one perfect game, a 1.26 ERA and 324 strikeouts, the highest total among pitchers nominated for all-state consideration in 5A.
The Alabama Sports Writers Association panel voted Gattis as 5A pitcher and player of the year. She was also a first-team all-state selection.
Gattis also batted .493 with a .518 on-base percentage and 49 RBIs.
Her season included a perfect game against Lincoln in the Area 11 tournament. She also prevailed in a 1-0 duel with Pleasant Valley's Leah Patterson in a memorable Calhoun County final.
This all came in the first full season since Gattis and twin sister Chloe, her catcher, transferred from Southside. The COVID-19 pandemic cut short their 2020 season, their first at Alexandria.
Gattis took a few minutes to discuss her junior softball season at Alexandria and more for the player-of-the-year Q&A:
Question: Alexandria got to the last day of play in 5A softball. What are your thoughts about the season?
Answer: You hear all the time, 'Oh, we're a young team, a young team,' but I think that really helped us this year. We were really able to see how much we were able to mature. Especially next year, we're going to be able to see how much we matured as a team, as players mentally and physically.
Q: For you individually, how were you hoping to develop in 2021, and how do you think you progressed?
A: I was really just trying to be the best that I could for my team, and I feel like I accomplished that this year. So, I'm just trying to work really hard this summer, even in the other sports I play. I play volleyball, as well, and we're in workouts right now. I'm trying to get better every day for my team, and I'm really hoping to do that next spring, when softball starts back up again.
Q: From a pitching standpoint, what specifically did you work on this past season?
A: I always try to work on movement and speed. I'm always trying to get stronger and throw the ball harder, but I'm also trying to work on movement. Girls can hit a 70 mph fastball. It's more common in college, but girls can still hit very fast pitching, but girls can't hit movement as well.
Q: Thanks to scheduling and weather, you had a 12-day break between your last regular-season outing and that perfect game to open area. How did that help you finish strong?
A: It helped a whole lot, because I was able to have that break. It was well-needed for me that week. Coach Hess did a great job planning that out for me.
Q: It came to light this season that Coach Hess promised you a steak for a perfect game. How was it?
A: I've had two. I can't remember what kind Coach Hess made us. I just know they were big.
Q: What does it do for you to have Chloe as your catcher?
A: Oh my gosh. I really don't know if I can answer this as good as it is. Having my twin sister behind the plate means so much to me, because in warmups, we don't even have to speak to each other. I nod my head, and she knows what pitch I'm throwing next. She talks to me and says, 'Hey, this pitch moved this far; I want to see you throw it again. Hey, this dropped this much; I think that's really good. Hey, start this right here and finish it right here.' She communicates so well with me. She knows how I'm supposed to throw everything. She knows what they look like on a good day. She knows what they look like on a bad day. Just being able to have someone I'm so close with, it means so much to me. I am a better pitcher because of her.
Q: What was the thought behind you guys transferring to Alexandria?
A: It was more or less, I wanted to play for Coach Hess. I knew good things would come from that. I played with his daughter Christian. It was travel ball, and I was, like, 10, 11 or 12. I can't quite remember. We picked up on teams together before. Coach Hess, he kind of knew me. He's watched me grow up a little bit.
Sports Writer Joe Medley: 256-235-3576. On Twitter: @jmedley_star.